Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Getting 50-year-old Americans as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050, study says

Date:
July 28, 2011
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
A new study is the first to calculate the fiscal consequences of the growing life expectancy gap over the next few decades. The study also pinpoints the crucial age at which U.S. life expectancy starts to deteriorate.

Forty years ago, Americans could expect to live slightly longer than Europeans. This has since reversed: in spite of similar levels of economic development, Americans now live about a year-and-a-half less, on average, than their Western European counterparts, and also less than people in most other developed nations. How did Americans fall behind?

Related Articles


A study in the July 2011 issue of Social Science & Medicine is the first to calculate the fiscal consequences of the growing life expectancy gap over the next few decades. The study also pinpoints the crucial age at which U.S. life expectancy starts to deteriorate.

Specifically, researchers from the University of Southern California and colleagues at RAND Corp. and Harvard School of Public Health find that health in middle-age -- around the age of 50 -- is overwhelmingly the main contributor to disparities in life expectancy between Americans and Europeans.

In the first half of the last century, average life expectancy increased by saving more babies, explains author Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC and Norman Topping/National Medical Enterprises Chair in Medicine and Public Policy at USC. "But now it is reduction in mortality among the elderly, rather than the young, that propels increases in life expectancy."

"The question is whether 'being American' is an independent mortality risk factor," Goldman said.

Accounting for levels of socioeconomic diversity in the United States and predicted future demographic estimates, the researchers found much of the life expectancy gap would disappear if the United States lowered prevalence of middle-aged obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension to European levels.

The researchers also consider the health consequences of smoking on future life expectancy trends. While the prevalence of smoking is likely to continue decreasing in the future, the results of this study correspond to a National Research Council study led by Eileen Crimmins, AARP Chair in Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Released in January 2011, Crimmins' research looked at life expectancy over the last 25 years and found that smoking -- and to a lesser extent obesity -- were the two major reasons why U.S. life expectancy has fallen short of other high-income nations in the past.

Improving American health during middle age in the future to increase life expectancy would increase later-life pension benefits. But this expenditure would be offset by a significant decrease in health care costs -- at least $17,791 per person, the researchers estimate.

Though the transition to better health initially raises expenditures, the researchers estimate that by 2050 health care savings from gradual middle-age health improvements could total more than $1.1 trillion.

"The international life expectancy gap appears much easier to explain than gaps within countries: there is no American-specific effect on longevity beyond differences in disease at age 50," explained author Darius Lakdawalla, Director of Research at the Schaeffer Center at USC and associate professor in the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

The research offers compelling evidence that poor health behaviors among middle-aged Americans -- and not inefficiency in the U.S. health care system -- are primarily responsible for earlier death. Indeed, prior research has shown that the U.S. does a good job keeping people alive once they are sick, ranking highly in life expectancy among people with chronic or terminal illness.

The researchers looked at a group of Western European countries including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

Pierre-Carl Michaud of the Université du Québec a Montréal, Canada and RAND Corp. is lead author of the study.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Institute on Aging, and the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pierre-Carl Michaud, Dana Goldman, Darius Lakdawalla, Adam Gailey, Yuhui Zheng. Differences in health between Americans and Western Europeans: Effects on longevity and public finance. Social Science & Medicine, 2011; 73 (2): 254 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.05.027

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Getting 50-year-old Americans as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050, study says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728095923.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2011, July 28). Getting 50-year-old Americans as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050, study says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728095923.htm
University of Southern California. "Getting 50-year-old Americans as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050, study says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728095923.htm (accessed March 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) — In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
HIV Outbreak Prompts Public Health Emergency In Indiana

HIV Outbreak Prompts Public Health Emergency In Indiana

Newsy (Mar. 26, 2015) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he will bring additional state resources to help stop the epidemic. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indiana Permits Needle Exchange as HIV Cases Skyrocket

Indiana Permits Needle Exchange as HIV Cases Skyrocket

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) — Governor Mike Pence declares the recent HIV outbreak in rural Indiana a "public health emergency" and authorizes a short-term needle-exchange program. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) — While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins